It should be patio season in Summerlin. The breezy days of spring seem tailor-made for Sunday afternoons spent hiking in Red Rock Canyon followed by mimosas on palm-shaded sidewalks. But just like in the rest of Las Vegas, there are no crowds clamoring for brunch reservations in Summerlin. The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop is closed. People put on masks to leave their homes and keep their distance from each other at grocery stores with shortened hours. The affluent community on the western edge of the valley is quiet, seized by a kind of silent panic that has come to define the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
For the area’s restaurants, the choice to switch to takeout-only, close completely, or adapt in some other way weighs heavy.
In Downtown Summerlin, the Saturday farmer’s market switched to a drive-thru. A sign outside of Red Rock Casino reads “Doors Closed Hearts Open.” Per Gov. Sisolak’s mandate, casinos and most stores are closed.
Many restaurants in Downtown Summerlin, including the new Japanese restaurant Jing, breakfast and lunch specialist MTO Cafe, comfort food spot Public School 702, and the healthy True Food Kitchen, followed suit. The remaining dining options that are open in Downtown Summerlin offer takeout, pop-up markets, and groceries to-go.
Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, which is typically buzzing with Summerlin locals and their pets, is offering takeout plus a “Home Essential Package” for $40 that includes chicken, eggs, milk, butter, rice, vegetables, and toilet paper — an increasingly coveted household staple. Nearby, Wolfgang Puck Players Locker also offers takeout and grocery items, plus themed menus that rotate weekly. For example, last week, chef Matt Hurley Puck’s steakhouse Cut at the Palazzo, put together a barbecue menu.
Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, notes that the makeshift grocery service already has regular customers — Summerlin locals who prefer shopping at a restaurant to dealing with the barren shelves of grocery stores.
“It’s almost like coming into your local market,” Kaplan says. “People have said, ‘Please don’t stop this. We love the food and it makes our families happy.’ Right now, we are providing the most important thing besides love, which is food.”
Across from Wolfgang Puck Players Locker, Shake Shack offers to-go orders to the public while supplying food donations to local charities and community organizations including Project 150 and the Salvation Army.
Elsewhere in Summerlin, casual, counter-service restaurants that already specialized in takeout and delivery before the proliferation of COVID-19 appear to be hanging on. Roberto’s Taco Shop with its fast-casual Mexican menu on Lake Mead Boulevard is open for takeout. Bowlology with its acai, poke, and protein bowls at Canyon Pointe is open (with shorter hours) for takeout and delivery through Postmates. Marco’s Pizza on Hualapai Way is still open for takeout and delivery. Healthy fast-casual restaurant Rachel’s Kitchen has curbside pickup and delivery, plus specials including free meals for children with the purchase of two entrees.
Other Summerlin restaurants, however, including the one-year-old Italian restaurant La Strega and Vintner Grill with its new American menu with Mediterranean flair served under outdoor cabanas, made the difficult decision to temporarily close during Nevada’s 30-day moratorium on dine-in services.
Showboy Bakeshop, which is known for its theatrical cupcakes created by former Las Vegas Strip performers, temporarily shuttered its Summerlin bakery but still offers curbside pick-up at its Henderson location.
“The most surprising effects of the dine-in shutdown have been the eerie quietness to our stores,” co-owner Jared Sullivan says. “We are ‘people people’, and love to talk and chat with our guests, so handling all sales and communication through email, for a quick curbside pick up has been very surreal.”
In northern Summerlin, beloved Thai food hideaway Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen offers curbside pickup and delivery (the latter is free within a five-mile radius for orders of $65 and over).
“I have been trying to figure if people are more afraid of catching the disease or spending money,” owner Nittaya Parawong says. “In Summerlin, I don’t think people are worried about spending money, but they are freaked out about the disease and having to stay home.”
Parawong, whose other Las Vegas restaurant Block 9 Thai Street Eats is also open for pickup and delivery, does not expect to make a profit while making this shift; her main focus is keeping her 35 employees on the payroll and prioritizing sanitization practices, such as cleaning the restaurant’s door after each use. She is optimistic about the future of Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen, but worries for other Asian restaurants in Las Vegas, especially those in Chinatown.
“People have ideas about where the disease came from and think negatively about Chinese restaurants,” Parawong says. “They think the people who work there have it.”
Over on Village Center Circle, Sultan’s Grill with its Mediterranean, Greek, and Middle Eastern fare sees some foot traffic from the nearby Albertsons, but the effect of the dine-in closure is still significant. Janice Yono, who has co-owned the restaurant with her husband for 18 years, wants relief for the restaurant industry, not just in Las Vegas, but nationwide.
In an email, Yono referenced a plea from the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which calls for universal basic income, rent abatement, tax deferrals, and a relief fund.
Whether open for takeout, closed, or innovating to stay afloat, many Summerlin area restaurants share a sense of resiliency, citing events like the 2008 recession and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting as devastating periods in history that prove the city can overcome tragedy.
“The key thing when we get better will be to remember that how we did as a community will send a message domestically and globally,” Tom Kaplan of Wolfgang Puck says. “We demonstrated with October 1 that we are a caring community. The people in this city love to work and make this city strong. We are one of the most diverse communities in the country and we have such a wonderful mix of people. When we open, we will have that same desire to work and please because that’s how we look visibly to the world. We will be a part of an upswing.”
Jennifer Lao, who owns Hokkaido Teppanyaki Steak House, expressed a similar hope in Las Vegas’ ability to come together in the future. Hokkaido may be temporarily closed, but the restaurant’s chefs continue to eagerly discuss new ideas for dishes via video chat as they await the day they can get back to the kitchen.
“After this closure is over I think our dining scene will see overwhelming support from the people of Las Vegas,” Lao says. “This city is known to come together in times of hardship. I’m forever grateful and proud to call it my home.”